Earlier: Twitter could buy or build its own photo-uploader and mobile app, squashing third-party developers in its way, Twitter investor and Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson implicitly warned in a post this morning.
Fred began his post with a story about how when he got out of college a bunch of his friends joined a startup called General Computer that made hard drives for Apple computers. Fred said that this startup eventually “faded away” because Apple began building hard drives into its computers.
Fred said that many of the startups building applications for Twitter right now are falling into the same trap as General Computer did with Apple. Fred wrote:
Much of the early work on the Twitter Platform has been filling holes in the Twitter product. It is the kind of work General Computer was doing in Cambridge in the early 80s. Some of the most popular third party services on Twitter are like that. Mobile clients come to mind. Photo sharing services come to mind. URL shorteners come to mind. Search comes to mind. Twitter really should have had all of that when it launched or it should have built those services right into the Twitter experience.
Fred said that instead of building mobile clients, search, and URL shorteners, third-party Twitter developers should focus on “social gaming,” “verticals” (e.g. Stocktwits), “enterprise” (e.g. CoTweet), “discovery” (e.g. Listorious), and “analytics.”
We told Fred we were going to call his post an implied threat, and per his artfully prudent nature, Fred told us, “I’m not hinting at anything. Just making a point about the world as I see it. I put everything I want to say in that post.”
But we talked to sources at a few Twitter apps, and one of them told us Fred’s message is loud and clear. This source heard, “[Twitter is] going to do mobile apps and URLs. [Twitter is] way playing down the role of other apps. [Twitter] desperately need somebody to do vertical/gaming stuff, since that’s what we aren’t going to do ourselves. Bit.ly (as a URL shortener), TwitPic (as a photo uploader) and Tweetie (as an iPhone app) are now considered ‘core’ to the platform. They will either be bought or competed with.”
Our source in the Twitter ecosystem shared these other reactions with us:
Bit.ly (as a URL shortener), TwitPic (as a photo uploader) and Tweetie (as an iPhone app) are now considered ‘core’ to the platform. They will either be bought or competed with.
- Given that Twitter announced their own URL shortener and will need one for any [cost-per-click advertising] business model, we should assume Twitter will have its own URL shortener concept.
- TwitPic could be bought or built. Probably easier to build, since there’s no magic there.
- Tweetie is a big favourite of the Twitter crew, they love Loren Brichter’s stripped down design and cool sensibility, and it can probably be bought at an affordable price. Ie., Bit.ly downgraded; TwitPic built, Tweetie bought.
No mention of any other Twitter apps. This is HUGE. The apps are the big players in the Twitter ecosystem (represent 80% of all tweets) and they don’t merit a single mention. No mention of TweetDeck. No mention of UberTwitter. This doesn’t mean they plan to compete directly, but it does mean that they aren’t interested in anyone building another client. This was also reflected in Evan’s terrible @anywhere roll-out at SXSW. Lots of Web media companies in that demo, no Twitter apps. Ie., Twitter wants to reclaim the UI.
No mention of Ad.ly or 140 proof. Apparently that’s not an interesting part of the ecosystem. Ha ha HA! Ie., Twitter will control revenue.
A genuine plea for vertical and gaming plays. Please please please. Can somebody do this for us??? Remember – StockTwits left Twitter; all attempts at games have failed. Ie., what the fuck?! We know that we can’t do that stuff, but nobody seems to be able to do it for us.
As everyone knows Discovery is their big problem. Most new users quit because they can’t find content they find useful. The new Twitter homepage is obviously not much of an improvement, since it shows random tweets (mostly about Justin Bieber) and a few celebrity avatars. As an information platform, what Twitter needs is easy to understand category navigation — a simple way to get the best stuff from the best people on the subjects you care about — and none of the companies Fred mention do that. Does that mean that they are going to build navigation themselves or that they still don’t understand their problems?
- [Twitter is] going to do mobile apps and URLs.
- [Twitter is] wayy playing down the role of other apps.
- [Twitter] desperately needs somebody to do vertical/gaming stuff, since that’s what we aren’t going to do ourselves
In case you missed it, here’s Fred’s post: The Twitter Platform’s Inflection Point